"Experiential learning looks at how we should be offering young learners more opportunities for real life experiences."
So how can British schools become more innovative to rejuvenate an interest in learning and encourage pupils to become more invested in their early education? A common theme we’re hearing about is ‘experiential learning’, which looks at how we should be offering young learners more opportunities for real life, hands on experiences, which could help to boost engagement with the more traditional learning materials. It’s reported that one in two pupils claim lessons are ‘too boring’, which is why the more interactive techniques of experiential learning are on the rise.
Embracing the Experiential Learning Trend
Of course, for teachers that have gained their qualifications through a demonstration of traditional teaching methods, making the switch to more innovative processes such as experiential learning can mean a lot of trial and error. It’s about finding what works for you and your students. However, if you’re searching for inspiration, here are some great experiential learning activities for the classroom that can help you to slowly begin incorporating more innovative techniques into your lesson plans:
Newton’s 3rd Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This is something that most people know, but through memory only. Memorising the law is enough to get kids through their exams, but not enough to give them lifetime knowledge and understanding, and that’s a common issue we’re seeing with traditional teaching methods. By physically manipulating materials and seeing how the memorable saying can be applied to a real situation, it’s much easier for children to apply the law to the real world. It’s no longer simply a theory - instead, it’s something the children have first hand knowledge of.
Challenge your students to make a ‘scooter’, and propel this scooter using the force of another object. It doesn’t have to be complex - a balloon releasing air that propels the scooter in the opposite direction is enough to give more backing and more weight to Newton’s law, and make science much more interesting than reading about it in a book.
Maths is, by nature, quite abstract, and that’s exactly why certain concepts can be difficult to grasp theoretically. Many teachers have been using ‘manipulatives’ (physical objects) in the classroom for years to attempt to forge an association between concept and reality, and these are seen as early examples of experiential learning in the classroom. Popular kid’s toy the abacus is a perfect example of a maths-based manipulative, and is often credited with helping children learn to count. Research shows that manipulatives can help to verbalise mathematical thinking and relate real world thinking to mathematical symbols.
Manipulatives may include the likes of graphing calculators, building blocks, interlocking cubes, or, more simply, coins. “Learning maths outside the classroom gives them eyes to see the world in a different way which will increase their understanding of mathematics” says Steve Humble of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM).
Have you employed experiential learning? Share your experiences below.